346. The Downfall of Spain on
this Continent. For half a century or
more after the time of Columbus, Spain was the greatest
military and political power in the world. Her
ships and her sailors carried the proud banner of
Castile to every shore and clime then known.
The vast domain claimed by Spain on
this continent by right of discovery and exploration
comprised the fertile islands of the West Indies, the
greater portion of Central and South America, and all
that part of our own country west of the Mississippi.
In territory, in wealth, in power, the sovereignty
of Spain became the mightiest in the world.
How are the mighty fallen! The
once powerful empire has crumbled into dust.
The year 1898 saw its overthrow on this side of the
Atlantic and in the Philippines.
347. Spain’s Cruel Policy
towards her Colonies. For the most part
Spain ruled her colonies with shocking oppression.
Her policy was to extort all possible gain from them
to her own selfish profit. She retained to the
last the barbarous methods of less civilized centuries.
Finally, after long years of oppression, the South
American colonies began to cut loose from her tyrannical
In a few years Spain was stripped
of all her possessions in America, excepting only
her islands in the West Indies.
348. Cuba rebels against Spanish
Oppression. One would naturally suppose
that these disastrous losses would have taught Spain
to govern her only remaining American colonies, Cuba
and Porto Rico, with more wisdom. But not so;
she kept right on as before, growing worse, if possible,
still clinging to the old policy of cruel oppression
and merciless extortion.
Some thirty years ago a rebellion
began in Cuba which lasted ten years. In vain
Spain spent millions of money and sent thousands of
soldiers to subdue it. Hundreds of Cubans were
cast into prison to die of fever and starvation, and
their property was confiscated.
349. Cuba again rebels against
Spain in 1895. In 1895 the long-suffering
Cubans rose in rebellion again. Their army was
larger, better furnished, and they gained possession
of a much more extensive portion of the island.
Now Spain became really alarmed.
She sent to Cuba a hundred and twenty thousand soldiers.
They melted away, mostly from sickness and mismanagement,
like frost in the morning sun. It was all in vain;
for it was now plain that Spain could never conquer
the Cubans, and just as evident that the Cubans unaided
could never win their independence.
The war had already been barbarous
enough, when the Spanish General Weyler set in operation
his inhuman concentration plan. This meant the
gathering up in the country districts of thousands
of helpless old men, women, and children, and driving
them to the towns and forts, where they were shut
up like cattle in large enclosures, surrounded by a
deep ditch and a barbed wire fence.
Along the line of the fence were frequent
guardhouses, where soldiers with loaded guns prevented
escape. The poor outcasts were crowded into wretched
palm-leaf huts, with foul water and scanty food.
It is said that in the island about four hundred thousand
helpless people were herded in this way. They
died by thousands.
350. The Barbarities in Cuba
excite Great Indignation in this Country. Now,
all these horrors in Cuba aroused a great deal of
indignation in this country and excited profound sympathy
for the sufferers. Shiploads of provisions were
sent by the Red Cross and other societies to relieve
the starving thousands.
The feeling throughout this country
at last came to be intense. For years and years
past our people had watched the long struggle with
the keenest interest. For years our presidents
had protested to Spain against the useless warfare.
Now, when the real state of affairs
in Cuba in 1897 became known, our government sent
word to Spain that this slow starvation of helpless
men, women, and children was not war, but savage barbarity,
and must be stopped. In reply, Spain asked for
some delay and promised milder measures.
351. The Battleship Maine blown
up in Havana Harbor. In order to protect
American interests in Cuba, the battleship Maine was
sent to Havana in January, 1898.
A calamity now occurred that shocked
the world. On the evening of February 15 this
magnificent ship, while at anchor in the harbor of
Havana, was destroyed by an explosion. Two officers
and two hundred and sixty-four American sailors were
hurled to instant death!
The awful disaster sent a thrill of
horror and indignation through our country. A
court of inquiry was instantly appointed by President
McKinley to investigate the matter and ascertain the
cause. Meanwhile the country waited for forty
days, with surprising patience, for the report, which
came during the last of March, stating that the Maine
had been blown up from the outside by the explosion
of a submarine mine. Subsequent evidence before
the Senate committee showed that the mine had been
exploded by men who wore the uniform of Spain.
352. War declared against Spain. Public
feeling in our country grew more intense every hour.
The President continued to do his utmost to avert
war by peaceful and diplomatic methods. Thinking
people knew well enough that such efforts would be
in vain. It was evident that Spain would never
grant independence to Cuba. It was also evident
that the American people (from the moment they heard
of the blowing up of the Maine) had made up their
minds that the only real solution of the problem was
to put an end forever to Spanish rule on this side
of the Atlantic. This of course meant war.
Congress took the responsibility and
declared war against Spain on April 21, 1898.
353. Dewey acts promptly and
sails for Manila from Hong Kong. The first
step of our war with Spain was to send Commodore Sampson
with a fleet to blockade the large seaports of Cuba.
All eyes were turned to this island; for every one
expected the war to begin there; but instantly the
scene of action was shifted to the other side of the
The first day of May saw one of the
greatest naval victories in the history of the world.
Our government had telegraphed orders to Commodore
George Dewey, then at Hong Kong, China, in command
of our Asiatic squadron, to sail at once to the Philippine
Islands and “capture or destroy” the Spanish
Dewey had taken part in important
naval battles in our Civil War, and was an experienced
and skillful officer. In anticipation of war,
his fleet was ready for action on an hour’s
After his instructions arrived from
Washington, Dewey promptly sailed for Manila with
six warships and two tenders. He delayed outside
the harbor till the moon had set, and then steamed
silently through the three-mile-wide channel.
He was entering in the dark a bay he had never seen.
He knew it was planted with torpedoes, and that he
was going to attack a Spanish fleet of ten ships,
besides large forts with heavy guns.
A wonderful task! but Dewey was a
wonderful man. He understood his business.
He had been trained under the eye of the great Admiral
Farragut and had fought long and hard in the war for
354. The Remarkable Naval Victory
at Manila. Dewey’s fleet arrived
before sunrise in front of the forts and the line of
Spanish ships. The battle at once began.
Our vessels kept moving on the curve of a long ellipse
or flattened circle, and every time each came around
it poured a series of rapid and accurate shots directly
into the enemy. They answered furiously, but
not deliberately. Round and round wheeled our
ships in a slow and deadly circle. Our men could
see the walls of the forts crumbling, some ships all
ablaze, and others shattered and sinking.
After two hours of these tremendous
circuits Dewey stopped firing and moved his ships
about three miles out of range to rest his men, give
them breakfast, and look after his ammunition.
The men, in fine spirits, ate their morning meal,
and rested. It was a stoker on the flagship Olympia
who said that below “the temperature is nearly
up to two hundred degrees, and so hot that our hair
Before noon Dewey returned, circled
nearer still, and fought even more fiercely.
In an hour and a half more the work was finished.
One ship was riddled, then reeled and sank; then another;
one was broken midway and went down; now one was in
flames, then a second, and so on till the entire Spanish
fleet, besides gunboats and transports, were sunk or
burned up or shot to pieces!
How did our ships stand the contest?
Only two or three were hit at all, and none seriously
injured. Our six had destroyed thirteen Spanish
vessels and silenced their forts. The Spaniards
had lost six hundred and thirty-four men, killed and
wounded. We had only one man killed and seven
355. The Nation’s Grateful
Appreciation of Dewey’s Victory. Thus
was fought, on May Day, 1898, at Manila, perhaps the
most surprising naval conflict the world had ever
seen. In three and a quarter hours the naval
power of Spain went down in the blue waters of the
bay, and the splendid fame of George Dewey echoed
round the globe. Congress gave him a vote of
thanks and a gold medal; and he was made Admiral, the
highest officer in the American navy.
Many years ago Admiral Farragut said
to the father of the hero of Manila, “Doctor
Dewey, your son George is a worthy and brave officer.
He has an honorable record, and some day he will make
Never before in the history of our
country was there projected a series of patriotic
demonstrations grander in their purpose or finer in
their execution than those which greeted Admiral Dewey
on his return to this country, in the fall of 1899,
from the scene of his famous victory.
When Dewey sank the Spanish fleet
in Manila Bay, he opened a new era in the history
of our country. From that day the United States
received more distinct recognition among the nations
responsible for the political affairs of the world.
356. Preparations to meet the
Spanish Fleet. Now let us return to the
scene of war in our own country. On the last day
of April the Spanish fleet, under Admiral Cervera,
left the Cape Verde Islands, sailing west; there were
four armed cruisers and three torpedo-boat destroyers;
all good new ships and in prime condition. The
alarming question was, Where will they strike?
The good people of our great eastern cities began to
imagine what would happen if these powerful warships
should come sailing into our harbors.
Every effort was promptly and vigorously
made to defend exposed points with forts and torpedoes.
Events proved that it was needless. No ship of
that Spanish fleet came within five hundred miles of
any American city. Yet it was evident that Cervera’s
fleet must be captured or destroyed before our coast
could be safe, or military operations could be prudently
begun in Cuba.
Extraordinary efforts were made to
ascertain the exact location of the hostile squadron.
Finally it was found that it had slipped
on May 19 into the bay of Santiago. Our fleet
at once gathered around to blockade the entrance,
to make it impossible for any vessel to pass in, and
to attack Cervera’s ships should they attempt
to come out. Among our blockaders were the splendid
ships New York, Massachusetts, Brooklyn, Texas, Iowa,
Indiana, and the Oregon that had sailed around Cape
Horn from San Francisco, fourteen thousand miles in
357. Hobson’s Brilliant
Exploit. Admiral Sampson did not deem it
advisable to steam in and attack Cervera, as the channel
was thickly planted with mines. So our semicircle
of ships watched and waited. At night our strong
search-lights blazed into the mouth of the harbor and
lighted it with a fiery glare.
If the narrow neck of the harbor could
only be somehow obstructed, so that Cervera’s
ships would either be completely “bottled up,”
or would have to creep out to sea by daylight, the
naval power of Spain would be crippled. So thought
Admiral Sampson, and he selected Lieutenant Hobson
for this daring deed. It meant going right into
the midst of the enemy’s batteries and torpedoes.
A large steamer, the Merrimac, was
taken and loaded down with coal; and a crew of seven
men were selected to go with Hobson. Strange fascination
of mingled courage and patriotism! Hundreds of
sailors begged the chance to go!
It was all carefully planned; and
about two hours before dawn, on June 3, they started.
As they drew near, the Spanish made the water boil
and hiss with their shots. But on they went to
the chosen spot, balls and shells striking all about,
howling and shrieking in their ears and tearing their
Coolly but quickly they sank the Merrimac,
sprang to the raft they had prepared, and were clinging
to it when the firing ceased and a little steam launch
came up with Cervera in it! The Spanish admiral
reached out and helped lift in Hobson and his seven
comrades! He took them ashore, praised them for
their daring, gave them dry clothing, fed them, and
soon after exchanged them for some Spanish officers
who had been captured by our men. =358. The Army
does Brilliant Service at Santiago. It
was plain that the Spanish ships would never come out
until they were driven out. So during the last
week in June an army of about twenty-five thousand
men, under General Shafter, landed a few miles east
of Santiago to cooeperate with our fleet in capturing
the city. Our forces, losing no time, moved on
through tropical jungles, exposed to the enemy’s
sharpshooting from trees. It was a deadly advance
towards log forts on the steep heights, impeded by
the annoying tangle of barbed-wire fences.
On the first and second days of July
our gallant troops captured the two forts, El Caney
and San Juan, which overlooked Santiago, and drove
the enemy in hot haste into the city.
359. The Remarkable Naval Victory
at Santiago. Then Cervera’s hour
had come! On July 3, a beautiful Sunday morning,
the eyes that for more than a month had watched with
sleepless vigilance that narrow opening between the
rocks, saw at last the bow of a Spanish warship.
It slipped out and turned sharply to the west; then
came another, and a third, and so on till all six
had passed. They at once opened a fierce but ill-directed
fire upon our fleet.
The men on our vessels were mustering
for Sunday morning inspection when the enemy was seen.
“The enemy is coming out!” was signalled
from ship to ship, and on each deck rang out the command,
“All hands clear ship for action!”
Every man was ready to do his duty.
Every ship was stripped for action. Instantly
our ships were after the Spanish squadron, firing as
they followed. What a sight was that! There
was never before one like it! Two lines of hostile
ships rushing along the coast, tearing the ocean to
foam, each a volcano pouring out smoke, and more than
a hundred big guns hurling shells and shot which strike
with awful crash upon the iron walls of the enemy’s
On they dashed, mile after mile.
One of our huge shells fell midway of the Pluton,
which at once went down with an awful plunge.
The Furor, riddled with shot, fled to the shore and
broke in pieces on the rocks. Furious was the
chase for the other four; nearer and nearer, till our
ships came up. Then the Maria Teresa, the flagship,
with huge holes torn in her, and set on fire by our
exploding shells, escaped to the beach, a sinking,
burning wreck. Next the Oquendo, half her men
killed, and her sides all split open, also fell helpless
on the beach. In forty minutes these four ships
had gone to their doom.
Still beyond was the famous Vizcaya,
doing her best to escape. But the Brooklyn, Commodore
Schley’s flagship, gained on her and poured shells
into her, so that with the Oregon now rushing up in
a burst of speed which astonished all who saw her,
her race was soon run, and she, too, went to her grave
on the strand, a shattered, blazing hulk.
Yet one more, the Colon, newest, fastest,
and best of the squadron, was now about four miles
ahead; but our ships gained steadily upon her, and
in less than two hours she hauled down her flag and
ran ashore forty-five miles from Santiago.
360. After the Battle at Santiago. The
sun that shone in the morning upon six of Spain’s
finest ships looked down at noon upon a row of half-sunken
wrecks along the coast.
At the risk of their lives our men
rescued their foes from the mangled hulks, the burning
decks, and the surging water.
“Don’t cheer, boys,”
cried one gallant captain, “the poor fellows
Another captain said in his report,
“So long as the enemy showed his flag, our men
fought like American seamen; but when the flag came
down, they were as gentle and tender as American women.”
The Spanish loss, according to their
own accounts, was three hundred and fifty killed or
drowned, and about one hundred officers and one thousand
six hundred and seventy-five men prisoners, including
the brave Admiral Cervera. Their loss in value
was over twelve million dollars. Upon our side
only one man was killed, and three were wounded, all
on the Brooklyn. Not one of our ships was badly
injured. Evidently the Spanish gunners could
not shoot straight!
So ended this famous naval engagement.
Never, perhaps, has the world seen two such instances
of the utter destruction of an enemy’s naval
force as in the battles of Manila and Santiago.
361. The Campaign in Porto Rico. The
surrender of all Cuba soon followed. Then General
Miles was sent with nine thousand troops to Porto
Rico, the only remaining island on this side belonging
to Spain. He landed near Ponce, on the southern
coast. The city surrendered without a shot and
welcomed our army. The Spanish troops fled on
the approach of our soldiers.
General Miles in a proclamation assured
the inhabitants that they should enjoy the rights
and immunities of American citizens. As he moved
inwards, other cities along his line of march surrendered,
and the Spanish forces made only occasional resistance
to our progress. Just before an expected battle
news of peace came from Washington. All fighting
ceased, and this fertile island came into our hands
with little bloodshed.
362. End of the War. Meanwhile
our government was making energetic preparations to
send a powerful fleet under Commodore Watson across
the Atlantic and to carry the war to the Spanish coast.
We may be sure that Spain, and even some of her neighbors,
did not like the prospect. There had been enough
of rapid, crushing, and unbroken defeats to satisfy
even the Castilian point of honor.
When it became evident that Watson’s
fleet would be ready in a few days to carry the war
to the very doors of Spain, the representatives of
the great nations of Europe said things had gone far
enough. Diplomatic pressure was applied to poor
Spain. She was politely but firmly told that
she must make peace at once, and on any terms.
The French Minister at Washington
was authorized by Spain to sign a preliminary document,
or protocol, embodying in precise language the
conditions on which our government would negotiate
peace. This document was signed at Washington
on August 12, and hostilities ceased.
The formal treaty of peace was signed
in Paris December 10, 1898. By the terms of this
treaty Spain agreed to give up its sovereignty in Cuba,
to cede to the United States Porto Rico, a few small
West India islands, and one of the Ladrone group;
also to cede to this country the Philippines, after
payment by us of twenty millions of dollars as “reimbursement
for insular expenses.”
363. Our Nation’s Future. The
immediate results of this short-lived Spanish war
were full of deep meaning to our nation. No one
now can safely say what the distant outcome will be.
It is certain to be far-reaching and momentous.
Our country has rapidly advanced to
its position as one of the foremost nations of the
world in wealth and in power. Let us trust it
may also lead in good government, in national honor
and righteousness. Let us earnestly hope that
in the long years before us our sacred Union shall
still be preserved, unbroken, forever one
great Union of prosperous and happy states.